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From Vice to Lifestyle: CBD, Cannabis, Hemp and Beauty

Contact Author Jeb Gleason-Allured, Editor in Chief, Global Cosmetic Industry
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  • Casey Georgeson, founder of Saint Jane, at left, discussed the rapid growth of her brand; photo courtesy of CEW.
  • Lucie Greene of JWT Intelligence, outlined the growing lifestyle movement driving prestige CBD, hemp and cannabis concepts in beauty; photo courtesy of CEW.

CBD, hemp and cannabis have become normalized in recent years and elevated through brand innovation that strays far from dorm room pot leaves once associated with all things Cannabis. And beauty is riding that wave into one of the most exciting booms ever seen in the industry’s history, according to the panelists at CEW’s recent “The Future of Cannabis in Beauty” event in New York.

The discussion featured Casey Georgeson, founder of beauty lifestyle brand Saint Jane Beauty; Lucie Greene, worldwide director, The Innovation Group, J. Walter Thompson Intelligence; Dianna Ruth, product development and COO, Milk Makeup; and Julie Winter, COO, CBD For Life, a producer of health and beauty products featuring CBD.

Previously: CBD is the New Green

Getting Your Cannabis Terminology Straight

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As Winter showed during the panel, explaining the differences among CBD, hemp and cannabis isn’t easy.

A helpful post on Medium helps sort out the details fairly neatly:

  • Cannabis is the botanical name of the plant family from which two variants, indica and sativa, are derived.
  • Hemp’s leaf structure and general appearance is distinct from that of so-called “marijuana” plants (see below). Hemp is derived only from Cannabis sativa and is characterized by levels of the intoxicating THC compound of 0.3% or less. It also famously contains non-intoxicating cannabidiol, or CBD, which has been associated with everything from stress reduction to pain management to an FDA-approved treatment for epilepsy.
  • Non-hemp cannabis, often called marijuana, comprises anywhere from 15-40% THC, as well as CBD. As for the term marijuana? The lingo, long used colloquially for high-THC cannabis, has some problematic origins and has fallen by the wayside among many marketers.

From Vice to Wellness Lifestyle

The world of Cannabis has followed the trajectory of natural/wellness industry, trading in crunchy, hippie-oriented culture for a more inclusive and upscale lifestyle space.

Greene noted that innovations have included a matchmaking platform, Highly Devoted, which invites people to “connect over cannabis,” purveyors of gourmet edibles like Beboe and Lord Jones, and Broccoli magazine, which elevates cannabis and CBD culture for contemporary high-end consumers, no pun intended.

Rapid Acceleration for Brands

Saint Jane found itself moving from pitching Credo to being invited into Nieman Marcus and Barneys in rapid succession, said Georgeson. This meant launching faster than expected, which can be complicated in a regulatory-heavy category.

Ruth noted that there are already numerous CBD brands in Sephora, with countless others launching every day.

With the continued devotion of players to developing the space, the boom is sure to continue.

Women-driven Market

While traditional cannabis culture has been male-dominated, today’s CBD, hemp and cannabis concepts lean more toward feminine wellbeing, as seen in Whoopi Goldberg-backed Whoopi & Maya edibles brand which targets issues such as stress and menstrual cramps. Winter added that CBD has also been used by some women to address post-partum depression.

The design cues in the cannabis space have evolved away from pot leaf iconography to a more upscale wellness look.

Meanwhile, hemp seed oil’s anti-inflammatory benefits are being leveraged for unique beauty and personal care applications targeted to women, Greene noted. 

Georgeson concluded that the cannabis space, particularly CBD, has followed a trajectory similar to the wine industry, which is also highly female-driven. 

Unsurprisingly, many of the entrepreneurs featured in the category are women.

What About Men?

Winter noted that men are less focused on the self-care elements of the cannabis space and are thus more apt to purchase functional products like tinctures. Greene added that many men approach the category, including CBD, with a focus on workout-related care.

A New Visual Language

The design cues in the cannabis space have evolved away from pot leaf iconography to a more upscale wellness look. Brands operating in this space are more apt to have a look that would be at home in any boutique or lifestyle Instagram feed. While many lean toward feminine designs, gender-neutral branding is also common.

Does Anyone Know What They’re Talking About?

The panel appeared to agree that consumers understand little about the distinctions among cannabis ingredients, much less qualities, dosages and other critical details. That said, niche shoppers may be well-informed and, as cannabis lifestyles become more popular, consumer knowledge is sure to follow.

Legal Confusion Abounds

While cannabis beauty and adjacent markets offer a huge greenrush for brands, success can be hampered by a lack of certainty on key regulatory issues.

While the U.S. hemp bill provided new market opportunities, states are still able to act via local laws and, in some cases, perhaps misinterpret the federal law. Winter noted that confusion and business disruptions will continue until the U.S. FDA provides more clarity. Some panelists even posited that cannabis-related beauty could one day potentially face a process like that seen in the SPF space.

When Milk Makeup developed its Kush High Volume Mascara, which comprises Cannabis sativa seed oil (a non-THC product), the brand was encouraged not to launch.

She noted that sourcing concerns and trusting one’s supplier are paramount. This requires testing of ingredient batches as they come in and of demanding transparency from suppliers. Georgeson concluded that brands “need to be buttoned up” or risk legal complications.

When Milk Makeup developed its Kush High Volume Mascara, which comprises Cannabis sativa seed oil (a non-THC product), the brand was encouraged not to launch. (The oil was included to add richness and viscosity to the formula, preventing dry-out while keeping lashes conditioned; the product makes no additional claims beyond those functional benefits.) However, the company secured a “great FDA lawyer,” said Ruth, and took the proper precautions to go to market.

These measures included testing and approving every product batch, “documenting everything,” proving out suppliers, and shoring up banking, shipping and insurance considerations, which can often become sticking points for any cannabis-related brands.

Difficulties, aside, CBD alone is a “tidal wave,” said Ruth, offering the industry a unique wellness ingredient.

Milk is manufacturing its Kush product at five facilities, engaging in extensive batching, testing and documentation. Ruth likened the process to vegan certification, demanding enhanced vigilance.

Winter discussed the testing her organization undertakes, including testing for microbials and pesticides, and establishing the proper registrations with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Winter stressed to the audience: If you get into CBD, you must have a good, reputable supplier.

Difficulties, aside, CBD alone is a “tidal wave,” said Ruth, offering the industry a unique wellness ingredient.



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